Category Archives: Plants

Sydney Peppermint Gum Blown Over

Eucalyptus piperita

“A small graceful tree to 15m high, but sometimes much taller” NOPS p.38

During the big storms a few weeks ago I was lying in bed at around 11pm just about to ready to go to sleep when a loud and prolonged cracking sound started coming from just outside the bedroom. I knew right away that the large Sydney Peppermint gum in the back yard was falling over! I jumped up and tried to get to the window but it was pitch dark and storming, I couldn’t a thing. As the cracking continued I was terrified it was going to fall on the house, luckily it went the other way and ended up taking out a sizeable swath of bush and other trees as it came down. Phew!

The Sydney Peppermint gum is  a small to medium tree of up to 15m but can be much taller in the right conditions. It’s trunk is covered by rough grey bark that detaches from the tree and hangs in strips as it reaches higher up revealing smooth white upper branches. The leaves have a strong peppermint smell especially when crushed. The Sydney Peppermint was the first Australian plant to be used medicinally by Europeans. It’s oil was found by a surgeon on the first fleet to be “more efficacious in removing all cholicky  complaints than of the English Peppermint”

As the name suggests Sydney Peppermint gum is found in the Sydney basin, it ranges from the extreme south NSW coast up to the central north coast. Flowering time is early summer.

It was a shame to loose the tree, it was a large feature of the back yard. The pair of kookaburras who used to sit in it came and sat on the toppled tree no doubt wondering what had happened.

Fallen Sydney Peppermint Gum. Sneaker for scale.
It look out a few other sizeable trees as it fell

Resources and references

 

Cycad grows new leaves

Stop the presses right. Hah, well I still think this is pretty cool. The last time the cycad sprouted new leaves was almost 4 years ago.

Cycads are ancient plants that in some ways resemble palms or tree ferns. They have tough evergreen leaves that grow in a fan like arrangement from a single central trunk. Cycads are slow growing and can live for a long time, up to 1000 years. They are thought to have been much more widespread in the ancient past 100’s of millions of years ago, today they are still found around the world in tropical and subtropical climates.

The new shoots emerge at the top of the plant like a ring of spears from the central ball of coralloid roots. They grow very rapidly, up to 20cm per day for the first week after they emerge. As the spears emerge the leaves are each individually coiled up tight in intricate spirals. At first the leaves are very soft and flexible, and the undersides are covered with a film of fine hair/fur. Once they unroll the hair is lost and the leaves become stiff and hard.

New generation of leaves sprouting from the cycad. Last time this happened was 4 years ago.

I’m not sure what is behind the strategy of waiting years then growing all the leaves at once. Not long after the last time the leaves grew there was a scorcher of a day that burnt some of the new leaves leaving them dead and brown. That cant be good when new leaf growth is years away.

New cycad leaves unrolling. The new leaves are soft and flexible.
Close up of the new leaves. they are furry on the undersides

Waratah

Telopia speciosissima

“A magnificent flower long valued for its exceptional beauty” NPOS p. 104

Everyone knows the waratah, it’s big, voluminous and deep red in colour, it can’t be missed or mistaken for anything else. The Waratah is the state flower of NSW and narrowly missed out on being chosen as Australia’s national flower. Golden Wattle only became the official national flower in 1988!

The botanist R.T. Baker was a vocal advocate of the waratah arguing that it alone was unique to Australia, whereas, “in the wattle, Australia has not a monopoly like the waratah, for Africa has over one hundred native wattles, and it also occurs in America, East and West Indies and the Islands.”

The only Waratahs I’ve seen in the wild have been at Muogamarra. They are found dotted about the coast of southeast Australia, with a larger concentration centered on the sydney basin and surrounds. The Waratah grows in rocky places in woodland on sandstone.  Flowering time is September to October.

The magnificent Waratah. I came across this while walking with the family at Muogamarra Nature reserve. It was a popular plant, I had to wait my turn to take a photo.
We only saw the one Waratah, it was shorter than I was expecting in person.

Resources and references

Sydney Boronia

Boronia ledifolia

“The hardiest and also the earliest flowering of the local species” – NPOS p.116

Tom was the only one that had been home all Sunday, by late afternoon he had a bad case of cabin fever and demanded to go on a bushwalk, and one he’d never been on before. We took a path that joins the usual route, but past where we normally finish, then ended up doing the river loop in reverse. A few different wild flowers were in bloom, it really felt like the start of spring. I took pictures of these small purple flowers, I had a hunch they were a species of Boronia and I was right. Boronia is another one of those plants that everyone seems to be familiar with except me.

This particular one is a Boronia ledifolia, commonly known as Sydney Boronia. It’s a common plant, abundant in heath and woodland and also the earliest flowering of the local Boronias. The plant itself is small only growing to 1m in height. it’s flowers are four petalled and a sticking pink in colour, approximately 4cm across. Leaves are thin with a waxy shine, deep green in colour with pots and recurved margins.

Sydney Boronia – The first local Boronia to flower. When you see this then spring is on the way
Sydney Boronia
Shorts and t-shirt, must be getting warmer

Resources and references